OKLAHOMA CITY — Oklahoma remained critically low on COVID-19 testing kits even as the governor pushed forward with his ambitious plan to open mobile testing sites in four cities.
State officials have placed a “significant order” for more COVID-19 testing supplies and expect it to arrive this week, said Baylee Lakey, a spokeswoman for Gov. Kevin Stitt.
“In expectation for this significant increase in resources, the state has a plan in place to stand up appropriate infrastructure to expand our testing capacity statewide,” she said. “The state has a plan in place to bring a select number of satellite sites online as soon as COVID-19 testing supplies are delivered and available.”
On Sunday, Stitt said he planned to open mobile testing locations in Oklahoma City, Tulsa, Kay County and McAlester. Officials would not say why there would no testing sites available in western Oklahoma.
The McAlester/Pittsburg County Office of Emergency Management released details Tuesday afternoon regarding drive-through testing in Pittsburg County.
Testing was scheduled for 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Wednesday, March 25, at the Expo Center in McAlester. Only 100 test kits were available for Pittsburg County residents.
Those wanting to be tested must enter the Expo grounds by going west on State Highway 31 and follow the instructions of law enforcement officers and health officials, said McAlester/Pittsburg County Emergency Management Director Kevin Enloe. Those wanting tests will not be allowed to enter from the main entrance on U.S. Highway 270, he said.
The Office of Emergency Management states that to be tested an individual must be 18 or older, have a fever greater than 100.4 F and a cough or shortness of breath. Only one person from each household will be tested.
Those seeking tests are to remain in their vehicle upon arrival at the drive-through site. They are also to remain in their car as a sample is collected. Samples collected at the Expo Center will be sent to a laboratory and participants will be notified of results, according to the released information.
The Pittsburg County Health Department partnered with the city of McAlester, Pittsburg County Emergency Management and other community partners to provide the drive-through COVID-19 testing.
"We are fortunate to live in an area where our longstanding partnerships and excellent history of response have made this event possible," said Juli Montgomery, Pittsburg County Regional administrative director for the Oklahoma State Department of Health. "Each agency is standing together as a team to help meet the needs in the area."
Lakey said the satellite locations are based on the number of cases in a county and availability of staffing and locations for testing.
On Tuesday, the number of confirmed cases statewide jumped to 106. Health officials reported three people had died and 25 more were hospitalized.
Forty-one people had tested positive in Oklahoma County; 12 in Tulsa County; and five in Kay. There were no positive cases reported Pittsburg County where McAlester is located.
Lakey said specific information about dates and how the process would work will be made public later this week.
Stitt spokesman Charlie Hannema said the sites would focus more on triage — or checking people for symptoms — rather than drive-through locations where people will automatically get swabbed.
“I don’t want to give off the impression that everyone who shows up at one of those will get a test,” he said.
He said only those showing symptoms of coronavirus — like fever, cough and shortness of breath — initially will be eligible for testing at the sites. And vulnerable populations along with health care workers, who may have been exposed or are already ill, also will be prioritized.
Lakey said the large shipment of the COVID-19 testing reagent expected to arrive this week will be distributed among the labs, including the state Health Department public laboratory and the labs at the University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma State University. The universities are expected to boost the state’s capacity once testing abilities expand.
Stecklein covers the Oklahoma Statehouse for CNHI's newspapers and websites. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.